Afropunk has one of the most prominent music festivals around and they also have an online publication. The organization who for many years has been thought of as a representation of Black culture may be in the process of being proven otherwise. Yesterday (Sept 5), its editor-in-chief decided to resigned. Citing many contradictory policies that he didn’t agree with, Lou Constant-Desportes felt it was time for him to go. Following his resignation, he took to social media to reveal tactics used by Afropunk and many companies to flourish under the umbrella of ‘black excellence,’ when it fact they enjoy elitism.
Lou Constant-Desportes released a statement via his Facebook, stating he “experienced and witnessed so many lies, gaslighting, disrespect, victim-blaming, and exploitation.” He also stated, “the philosophy and actions of some of the people who run the company are so at odds with the values that they claim to stand for.” In another aspect of his statement he says, “they were using radical imagery, slogans and intersectional mottos to market their events. Performative activism offered to sponsors as ways to promote their products. Elitism under the guise of ‘Black excellence.’” He continued in another area, “when the editorial content was too ‘radical’ or unapologetic for their taste, we were asked to tone it down, our independence was compromised.”
Why is this important? Its important because it gives a better understanding of how elitism is disguised under pro-black and pro-equality in order to use that umbrella to unfairly gain advertisers, sponsors as well as readership and representation for and from a community they otherwise don’t represent and only profit from.
See Lou Constant-Desportes full statement below. We wish him the best of luck in his future ventures.
I have resigned from my position as Editor-in-Chief at AFROPUNK.
While I’m proud of the work accomplished as the founding and only Editor-in-Chief of the online publication, I have decided that enough is enough. As you can imagine I wouldn’t leave something that I’ve poured so much time, energy, creativity into if I didn’t strongly feel that it was the best solution. I usually remain discreet, but as the company is trying to make me sign a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for ‘hush money’, I’m speaking out publicly instead, for once.
It’s almost hard to know where to start because the philosophy and actions of some of the people who run the company are so at odds with the values that they claim to stand for, that it’s puzzling to watch them and their corporate entourage continue to practice their performative “activism” dipped in consumerism and “woke” keywords used for marketing purposes. Many of the behaviors I will mention below continue to this day. No one is perfect, but I’m talking about patterns and systems here, not isolated incidents.
I have experienced and witnessed so many lies, gaslighting, disrespect, victim-blaming, exploitation, not to mention overworked, undervalued and underpaid staff being kept in precarious situations, that my only consolation was producing editorial work that could somewhat be independent and serve the community. I also was in denial for a while about how violent what I and others had been through was. Besides, when the editorial content was too “radical” or unapologetic for their taste, we were asked to tone it down, our independence was compromised. I resisted the best I could and repeatedly fought against, called out unethical behaviors and decisions internally when I saw them, to the point where I was being considered inconvenient and negative by management. Meanwhile, they were using radical imagery, slogans and intersectional mottos to market their events. Performative activism offered to sponsors as ways to promote their products. Elitism under the guise of “Black excellence”. One of the owners doesn’t even seem to have a real grasp of what intersectionality actually is, but sure knows how to put it on huge banners and market it to the masses.
There are many people in New York and elsewhere with their own AFROPUNK horror stories, some have tried to speak out, some (like me until now) stayed silent for what they believed was the “greater good”, some had signed non-disclosure agreements like the one the company tried to make me sign when I said I was leaving.
This has been on my mind for a very long time, for a while I tried to convince myself that I could continue and do it for the community, maintain my integrity in this unhealthy environment, keep giving “second chances” to people who don’t even seem to understand how problematic their actions are, or be selfish and try to at least reap some of the benefits generated by my hard work. But staying silent is not doing anyone justice, not to mention that it keeps me and others in harm’s way. We deserve better.
That said, there are some people that I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart.
I am very grateful for all the inspiring creatives and activists that the editorial team supported and grew with over the years. From those who have stuck to the indie underground route, to those who went on to become household names, I feel lucky to have been a part of your journey. I also want to thank all the people who have worked with me or contributed to the publication in one way or another. You were so important in bringing this vision to life, with your help it had become an international reference for culture, activism and thought-provoking intersectional content that amplified marginalized voices. I am proud of you. Last but not least, I’d like to express my gratitude to the millions of people who have supported our work daily and uplifted us. Hopefully we have uplifted you too. You are the reason I kept going in spite of the difficulties.
Looking forward to the next adventures, much love to all